A Sunrise Service to Celebrate Easter
Cleeve Hill, starting at the Quarry Car Park
About 30 of us gathered together, not quite at dawn! But with the sun low over the horizon we did an imaginary walk over the limestone hill of the Cotswold Escarpment to a quarry suggestive of the empty tomb and on to the top of the hill. On the way we shared again the Easter story ...
He is Risen!
An Easter Celebration
R) It was just outside the city of Jerusalem, on a barren hill top of limestone rocks and quarries not unlike the rocks around here, that they crucified Jesus. They called it Golgotha or The Place of the Skull. It was a Friday.
1) All who knew Jesus personally, including the group of women who had been with Him from the beginning in Galilee, stood at a distance, watching all of these things unfold.
2) Meanwhile a man named Joseph had been at work. He was a member of the council, a good and fair man, from a Judean town called Arimathea. He had objected to the plans and actions of the council; he was seeking the kingdom of God. He had gone to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He removed the body from the cross and wrapped it in a shroud made of fine linen. He then laid the body in a cave-like tomb cut from solid rock, a tomb that never had been used before.
1) It was Preparation Day—the day before the holy Sabbath—and it was about to begin at sundown. The women who had accompanied Jesus from the beginning in Galilee now came, took note of where the tomb was and how His body had been prepared, then left to prepare spices and ointments for His proper burial. They ceased their work on the Sabbath so they could rest as the Hebrew Scriptures required.
2) Early on Sunday morning, even before the sun had fully risen, these women made their way back to the tomb with the spices and ointments they had prepared. They included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, along with a number of others.
R) I wonder how they felt. At this moment that morning there was no elation, no excitement, nothing that gave them hope. There was sadness in their hearts and maybe fear too. Jerusalem was a city set on mountains twice the height of this hill and more. Those women knew they could look to God and find in God help in their sadness. Maybe they looked up to the mountains and asked where their help could come from.
I lift my eyes up
Up to the mountains
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You
Maker of Heaven
Creator of the earth
Oh, how I need You Lord
You are my only hope
You're my only prayer
So I will wait for You
To come and rescue me
Come and give me life
(Brian Doerksen CCL 3540)
R) With a heavy heart filled with sadness and apprehension they made their way towards the place where he had been buried.
To the Place of the Skull …
R) It was not far from the spot where he had been crucified. They brought to mind the words he shared from the cross
3) My God, My God, why have You turned your back on me?
4) (to the believing criminal who, turning to Jesus, said, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom please remember me) Jesus said, I promise you that this very day, you will be with me in Paradise.
5) (to Mary, His mother motioning to the beloved disciple) Dear woman, this is your son.
6) (to John, his beloved disciple), This is now your mother.
7) Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.
8) Father, I entrust My Spirit into Your hands!
9) It is finished!
R) Seeing that cross on the hill side gave them some sense of peace, some sense of hope.
When I survey the wondrous cross
where the young Prince of Glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God:
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
To the Tomb …
10) When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone was rolled away from the tomb entrance, and when they looked inside, the body of the Lord Jesus was nowhere to be seen.
11) They didn’t know what to think. As they stood there in confusion, two men suddenly appeared standing beside them. These men seemed to glow with light. The women were so terrified that they fell to the ground facedown.
Man 1) Why are you seeking the living One in the place of the dead?
Man 2) He is not here. He has risen from the dead.
Man 1) Don’t you remember what He told you way back in Galilee?
Man 2) He told you that the Son of Man must be handed over to wicked men, He must be crucified, and then on the third day He must rise.
11) The women did remember Jesus’ words about this, so they returned from the tomb.
10) One of them, Mary Magdalene, turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.
Jesus: Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for?
10) She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:
Mary Magdalene: Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.
Mary Magdalene Rabboni, my Teacher!
Jesus: Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.
10) Mary Magdalene obeyed and together with the other women returned from the tomb and found the eleven and recounted for them—and others with them—everything they had experienced.
Song: Lord, I lift your name on high
11) The Lord’s disciples heard their stories as fiction, a lie; they didn’t believe a word of it.
10) Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he reached the opening, he bent down, looked inside, and saw the linen burial cloths lying there. But the body was gone. He walked away, full of wonder about what had happened.
11) That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up with them and begins walking with them, but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.
R) What happened next is one of the most remarkable of all the Easter stories … and we are going to tell that story back at church … it was quite some time later that the disciples and those women made their way back to Galilee , to the mountain where they were to meet Jesus.
To the top of the hill …
R) When the disciples saw Jesus there, many of them fell down and worshiped, as Mary and the other Mary had done. But a few hung back. They were not sure (and who can blame them?).
R) Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples.
Jesus: I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and teachings that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
Jesus we celebrate Your victory
Jesus we revel in Your love
Jesus we rejoice You've set us free
Jesus Your death has brought us life
It was for freedom that Christ has set us free
No longer to be subject to a yoke of slavery
So we're rejoicing in God's victory
Our hearts responding to His love
His Spirit in us releases us from fear
The way to Him is open
With boldness we draw near
And in His presence our problems disappear
Our hearts responding to His love.
John Gibson CCL 3540
No matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For we have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
Bible passages from the Voice translation
We returned to Highbury for breakfast and for our Easter celebrations where we walked once again on the Emmaus Road and met with the risen Jesus.
Welcome to our celebration of Easter and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. Before or after today’s services do take a moment or two to walk through the Easter story. Pause at each display and pray. Start at the table at the back of the church and remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Then move round anti-clockwise and pause for a moment, reflecting on the way Jesus broke bread with his closest friends and shared a cup on Maundy Thursday. Pause then at the foot of the cross and recall the words of Jesus, Father forgive them … and know that you are forgiven! Then move round the front of the church to the opposite side and the empty tomb. The last of our windows invites you to walk the road to Emmaus. Take your seat and in our worship be prepared to meet with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Pray that through all we share your eyes will be opened and that you will recognise the risen Lord. Then take with you the presence of the risen Christ into all that lies ahead, knowing that his promise will ever be in your hearts: Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age!